Revealed – 2013's big electric and hybrid model launches
Ford Focus Electric
The Focus will become Ford’s first electric vehicle when it goes on sale late this year, kick-starting an expanding range of models in the near future. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the C-MAX MPV will follow in 2014, alongside a hybrid and possibly a plug-in hybrid version of the Mondeo in the same year.
Production will take place alongside conventional Focus models at the Saarlouis plant in Germany, one of only two globally to build the battery-electric car. European-market range details have not been released yet, but expect a range of around 100 miles and the ability to rapid charge, offering full capacity in 3.5 hours. After the Focus ST, this is the first time the facelifted front-end will be on sale in Europe, hinting at how the rest of the range could look. WHEN? Late 2013
Kia Optima Hybrid
Left-hand drive European markets will soon be able to buy a smaller-capacity version of the Kia Optima Hybrid, which has proved a popular part of the carmaker’s North American line-up. In Europe, it will use a 2.0-litre engine, instead of a 2.5-litre unit, and return 52.3mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions of 125g/km.
Aside from the smaller engine, the Optima Hybrid functions exactly the same way as its internationally-sold counterpart. The combination of electric motor and petrol engine produces 188bhp, and the engine can be de-coupled at up to 62mph contributing to a 10% improvement in fuel consumption on the combined cycle compared to the 1.7 CRDi Optima with an automatic gearbox. The lithium-ion battery pack is also included in Kia’s seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty. WHEN? Early 2013
Lexus IS 300h
Lexus has aspirations for almost quadrupling its presence in the compact executive sector to 4,000 sales per year with the new IS, and the range's first-ever hybrid will be a vital part of the brand's fleet presence starting from this summer. The IS 300h will emit less CO2 and offer more power than key rival, the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics, and with prices starting at £26,495 it will be cheaper too.
It uses a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor, which produce a combined 217bhp and should return over 66mpg on the European test cycle. Lexus has also hinted in the past that it would release a diesel-rivalling GS hybrid, which this drivetrain would be ideal for. Pricing for the IS will be announced closer to its launch early this summer. WHEN? June 2013
Infiniti Q50 Hybrid
Lexus isn’t the only manufacturer launching a hybrid model into the compact executive segment. Infiniti set out its stall in the fleet sector last year with revisions that bring the M35h under 160g/km for the first time. This year, it has unveiled the Q50 saloon, which will offer a close competitor to BMW’s ActiveHybrid 3 when it launches in North America starting this summer.
European engine options will be announced at the Geneva Motor Show in March, but the North American Q50 Hybrid will use the same 302bhp 3.5-litre petrol engine and 67bhp electric motor as found in the larger M35h, with a battery mounted in the boot. This could offer similar CO2 emissions and fuel economy to the BMW, but without a smaller-capacity engine it will remain a niche player in the UK. WHEN? Late 2013
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Mitsubishi will combine its four-wheel drive expertise and electrical knowledge gained through the i-MiEV in the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid, which launches late this year. It’s the world’s first production car with all-electric four-wheel drive, using motors at the front and rear axle, and can cover up to 34 miles on a single charge at speeds of up to 75mph.
Once the electric range is exhausted, the Outlander behaves like a conventional hybrid. It uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine, which can either be used to drive the car directly or provide additional power indirectly to the motors working as a generator to supplement the battery. Mitsubishi is targeting CO2 emissions of 49g/km for the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid. WHEN? September 2013
Localised production of a Europe-only LEAF will begin at Nissan’s Sunderland plant next April. While there are no official details at the time of writing, the Japanese market LEAF has recently been updated too, which could offers some clues about what’s coming to Europe.
Most of the upgrades are to the drivetrain. This now features a smaller, lighter high-voltage unit which is relocated to the front of the car and a new motor with less rare earth metals used in its manufacture. These upgrades shed 80kg, improve the range by 14% and include a low-price entry-level trim costing around £25,500. If European pricing is similar, this could bring the LEAF entry price under £21,000 after the £5,000 UK government grant, much closer to conventionally powered C-segment rivals. Details of the Sunderland-built LEAF will be announced at the Geneva Motor Show in March. WHEN? April 2013
The next stage in Nissan’s electromobility plan is an electric version of the NV200 compact van. Based on the same 105bhp electric drivetrain as the LEAF, it will offer the same easily accessible 4.3m2 load area as the conventional version but with a 752kg payload and a range of 100 miles. It can also be fast charged to 80% battery capacity within 30 minutes.
Nissan has been conducting trials in Europe and Japan for the last two years as part of final development for the e-NV200, partnering with companies including FedEx, the Japan Postal Service and British Gas to study how it performs in commercial vehicle fleets. Production will take place alongside the diesel NV200 at Nissan’s plant in Barcelona starting early this year. WHEN? Q2 2013
The ZOE is Renault’s fourth battery-electric vehicle, but it’s arguably the most significant in terms of changing opinion. It’s roughly the same size as a Clio, which puts it in the supermini class. Technically this is ideal for electric drivetrains, because the vehicles usually cover lower distances ideal for the short battery range available, but price has been a barrier.
Renault hopes to change that. Thanks to its battery leasing scheme and £5,000 plug-in car grant from the government, the ZOE will be available priced from £13,650 in the UK, making it competitive with an equivalent diesel model. Sharp styling and a 130-mile range should make this a talking point with fleets. WHEN? Spring 2013
Tesla Model S
Californian manufacturer Tesla is aiming for a slice of the European fleet market with its Model S executive car. So prior to its launch later this year, the company is appointing a team of specialists in the market, tasked with marketing it to the corporate sector. The UK will get right-hand drive versions from the third quarter of this year, with prices expected to start from under £60,000 for the mid-range, 230-mile battery. An entry-level unit with a range of 160 miles could bring this down further.
Developed entirely in-house, the Model S is roughly the same size as a BMW 5 Series. It uses a skateboard-shaped platform with the battery under the floorpan and electric motor between the rear wheels. Power of up to 416bhp is available from the Performance versions, and three batteries will be available with a range of up to 300 miles from a single charge. Tax breaks for electric vehicles could make this a viable option for those in the market for a high-performance executive car. WHEN? Late 2013
Toyota Auris Wagon Sports Hybrid
Debuted at the Paris Motor Show in September, the Auris Wagon Sports is the first time Toyota has had a C-segment estate since 2006. It’s a vital model, too. Estates make up a quarter of the segment’s sales Europe-wide, and this could help retain space-conscious buyers who may otherwise move into a low-CO2 crossover, which the carmaker doesn’t have.
The Auris Wagon Sports shares its wheelbase with the hatchback, growing 285mm at the back end to improve the load space. It’s also confirmed for the hybrid drivetrain, which gives Toyota a unique model in this sector. The hybrid battery moved from under the boot to under the rear bench as part of the recent refresh, which means all Auris models have the same load space. Pricing and full running costs haven’t been released yet, but at an expected 86g/km the hybrid wlil be the segment’s most efficient estate, undercutting the 90g/km Megane dCi 110. WHEN? Summer 2013For more of the latest industry news, click here.